By Megan Wehring
HAYS COUNTY – A DWI charge for a 2021 traffic incident involving Hays County Commissioner Walt Smith was recently dropped.
The charge was dropped at a Travis County hearing on Friday, Sept. 16. Smith is now charged with a misdemeanor traffic violation for obstructing a highway passageway and has been sentenced to nine months of community supervision, according to the plea agreement. Smith will also need to pay a $200 fine and court costs, along with using an IID (Ignition Interlock Device) for five months.
On April 28, 2021, at approximately 3:11 a.m., Smith had crashed into another vehicle near the 2200 block of Lake Austin Boulevard, according to the arrest affidavit. An Austin Police officer observed that Smith had “bloodshot and glassy eyes” and there was a strong odor of alcohol coming from him. The officer also noticed that Smith was “swaying from time to time and he was wobbling sometimes” along with being very talkative, the arrest affidavit stated.
When the officer first saw Smith, he was fine but later said his knee was hurting.
“Over the course of my career, I have attended hundreds of legislative hearings and negotiations supporting initiatives and on behalf of my constituents, which sometimes extend late into the night. On April 28, 2021, after leaving the Capitol, I was involved in a minor traffic accident with a local delivery truck. I called 911, spoke with officers upon their arrival, and was taken to the hospital for evaluation of a leg injury,” Smith said in a news statement.
Smith stated that on a scale of 0-10 (0 being not at all and 10 being the most intoxicated in his life), he was a 2, according to the arrest affidavit. He also said between 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. that night, he had two cocktails that contained vodka.
The following field sobriety tests were administered to determine physical and mental faculties: Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus and one leg stand (Smith refused to take the walk and turn test due to complaint of knee pain.) On the one leg stand portion, the officers marked that Smith swayed and put his foot down, according to the arrest affidavit.
Smith also refused to have the intoxilyzer, PBT (preliminary blood test) and blood test administered. Because he refused to provide a specimen of blood or breath, Smith’s permit and/or driving privileges to operate a motor vehicle were suspended from Sept. 3, 2021, to March 1, 2022.
“While at the hospital, I was informed that I was under arrest for DWI, even though no blood was drawn, no breathalyzer given, and officers at the scene expressed no suspicion of impairment. Upon reviewing the evidence, the DWI charge was dropped and I was instead charged with a misdemeanor traffic violation for obstructing a pathway,” Smith’s statement continued. “Due to the pandemic, the Travis County court system was backlogged and unable to hear my case for nearly a year and a half. While I wish this matter could have been dealt with sooner, my attorney was finally able to meet with prosecutors on Sept. 16, who agreed the DWI charge should be dropped. Although it is easy to rush to judgement, our judicial system exists to ensure that evidence is considered fairly and judgments are accurate. I take my position as county commissioner and the safety of our community seriously, and continue my service with appreciation that this matter has been fairly concluded and my innocence confirmed.”